Recently, I saw an article written describing the modernist art that won the gold and silver medal for new church architecture, awarded by the Pontifical Academies, and the author described them as speaking “the language of No,” that is, an anti-language that is pitted against man and the very sacredness that is meant to draw us to God. The winners were devoid of true sacred beauty and elegance that remind the people inside that they are in a sacred place that houses the presence of God. Indeed, they remind you more of being inside a modern art museum, particularly the first place winner, instead of inside a church or chapel. The corpus on the crucifix in the photo of the first place winner was tiny in comparison to the cross it was on, and the second place winner seemed to have no corpus at all on its cross, depriving the attendants of the reminder of Christ’s sufferings for us and our call to suffer for Him. Both altars are stark and sterile, seeming to forget our call to honor Christ and give Him what He is due, including beautiful architecture and art to house His Body. Speaking of that, there is also no sign of a tabernacle in either photo, so if it’s there it’s off to the side instead of front and center where it should be, again to remind us that we are in a sacred place and that our focus should be on Jesus Christ.
There are some things in modernism, as the author points out, that are not bad, and so it should not all be condemned. But largely, particularly when it starts to creep into the Church, it begins to draw our attention away from God and more on ourselves and we begin to lose sight of what is true and beautiful. We begin to make things, as these winners show, that point to our will and idea of how things should be done instead of listening to Christ and His Revelation through the Church and letting that dictate how we should honor Him in things like our church’s designs. Look at the picture I posted to go with this article as opposed to the winners of these awards. Having statues and beautiful materials and metals puts us in awe of the beauty of our surroundings and it gives us a reminder of the beauty of heaven and Who we are there to worship. It helps bring our mind back from wanderings and again puts the focus on our Creator. It also shows our love and honor for God as we put in the time and effort, as well as the money, to create a space that is worthy to house the King of the Universe.
Comparing the three photos, which one really inspires in you a love for God and draws your mind and heart to Him, preparing you to participate in the Mass?